Rheumatoid Arthritis and Food: 13 Myths and Facts

fresh tomatoes

Myth: Avoid “Nightshade” Veggies

There’s talk out there that tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and peppers can make your RA symptoms worse. Take this advice with a grain of salt. There’s no hard evidence that foods from the nightshade family are a problem. So don’t skip these brightly-colored veggies that are loaded with nutrients.

smoked salmon

Fact: Eat Fish to Curb Inflammation

You can’t go wrong with salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. They’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are superstars in the fight against tender joints and stiffness. They may even let you cut back on medication — with your doctor’s OK, of course. To get the most benefits, try to eat at least a 3- to 6-ounce serving of fish a couple of times a week.

apple cider vinegar

Myth: Apple Cider Vinegar Cuts Pain

It’s a popular home remedy for achy joints, but don’t follow the crowd on this one. Despite claims that a nutrient called beta-carotene can fight RA, there’s no proof it does. And even if that ingredient were useful, there’s only a tiny amount in apple cider vinegar. You’re better off using the stuff to dress your salad.

cereal and yogurt

Fact: Fiber Is Your Friend

Feel free to dig into foods with plenty of this stuff. It’s a good way to help you fight back against RA. Studies show it can lower your levels of a chemical called C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a sign of inflammation. So how much do you need? Fill a quarter of your plate with whole grains and half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal.

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Treatment Options for Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a number of physical symptoms that can be well-controlled and managed. The treatment options for Parkinson’s disease include several different medications, surgical procedures and physical therapy.

If you have Parkinson’s disease, you will most likely benefit from treatment for your tremors and other motor symptoms, and you may also need treatment for some of the non-motor effects of Parkinson’s disease, such as sleeping problems, pseudobulbar affect, and trouble swallowing.

Many of the treatments that are commonly used for Parkinson’s disease may also produce side effects. If the side effects of your Parkinson’s disease treatments are particularly bothersome for you, then you might also benefit from taking prescription medications that are aimed at controlling them.

Medications for Control of Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, stiffness, and balance problems.

One of the main root causes of Parkinson’s disease is a diminished amount of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, in the brain. Most of the medications used to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease symptoms are aimed at replacing dopamine or optimizing its action in the brain:

  • Levodopa/carbidopa – Levodopa converts to dopamine in the body. When it reaches the brain, it has a beneficial effect on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Carbidopa keeps levodopa from being broken down to its active form in the body, which reduces the side effects of dopamine on the body, and enhances the effects of dopamine on the brain.
  • Tolcapone and entacapone – These medications work by prolonging the action of levodopa and thus they can be added as prescription therapies for people who are taking levodopa/carbidopa.
  • Dopamine agonists – Medications such as pramipexole and ropinirole directly imitate the effects of dopamine to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Amantadine – This medication increases the amount of dopamine in the body and brain and has been used for treatment of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. It is also helpful in treating  dyskinesia, which is one of the potential side effects of long-term use of levodopa.
  • Selegiline – This medication prevents the breakdown of dopamine, allowing it to function for a longer period of time.
  • Trihexyphenidyl and benztropine (anticholinergics) – These medications work by blocking a chemical messenger called acetylcholine, which is found in the brain and body. These medications are most helpful in treating younger people with Parkinson’s disease, or people whose main symptom is tremor.

Medical Problems Associated With Parkinson’s Disease

Some medical problems are common for people with Parkinson’s disease. If you have Parkinson’s disease, you might also need medical treatment for one of the following conditions in addition to the treatment that you receive for control of the tremors, muscle stiffness, and balance problems of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Restless legs
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dementia
  • Pseudobulbar affect
  • Dry skin
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Constipation

Non-medical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease 

Many people who have Parkinson’s disease experience a degree of improvement of some of the symptoms with the help of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that can be reduced with therapy include:

  • Muscle stiffness and rigidity
  • Balance problems
  • Speech difficulty
  • Swallowing problems

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5 Surprising Facts About Lupus That Many People Don’t Know

When I mention lupus to my patients, sometimes I get a confused look because it’s not a well-understood condition. People wonder why the body would attack itself, as is the case with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

Here are five surprising facts that many people don’t know about lupus:

1. Lupus affects nine times more women than men, and more women of color than white women.

I’ve diagnosed men, senior citizens and toddlers with lupus. But women of childbearing age — 13 to 49 — are far more likely to be affected.

Genetics also plays a role. If you’re a woman with no family history of lupus, your chances of getting lupus are about one in 400. If your parents or a sibling has lupus, your chances jump to one in 25.

African-American and Latina women with no family history of lupus have about a one in 250 chance of developing the disease.

2. Lupus symptoms can differ greatly from person to person.

Some symptoms are common to other conditions, too, which can make diagnosis difficult. Common lupus symptoms include:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Achy joints
  • A butterfly-shaped rash around the cheeks and nose
  • Hair loss
  • Blood clots
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Chest pain when breathing
  • Mouth sores
  • Swelling in the extremities or around the eyes

3. Lupus is a disease of flares and remissions.

Lupus flare-ups can be mild, or they can be severe. At least 75 percent of people with lupus have arthritis and skin rashes. Half have kidney problems. Lupus patients are also more vulnerable to infection than most people.

4. Diagnosis begins with a simple blood test.

When I suspect lupus, I will order an antinuclear antibody (ANA) blood test. A negative ANA test result usually rules out lupus.

We know that ANA test results will come back positive in virtually everyone with lupus. However, some people will have a positive result even though they do not have lupus. When the test comes back positive, other criteria has have to be examined.

In those cases, I compare the patient’s symptoms with a list of 11 criteria for lupus. If they meet four or more of the criteria, they are usually diagnosed with lupus.

5. Treatment depends on the type of flare-ups you have.

Mild swelling and joint pain may be treated with acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory druglike naproxen, or ibuprofen.

Plaquenil, an anti-malarial drug, treats skin rashes, arthritis, and sometimes fatigue.

Rashes may be treated with topical steroid creams. And corticosteroids like prednisone and immunosuppressants treat serious kidney problems.

It’s good to remember that diagnosis and treatment of lupus keeps getting better. Ninety-five percent of lupus patients have a five-year survival rate today, compared to 5 percent in the 1950s.

And many people with lupus have a mild form. I tell my patients that proper medication can even help people with severe lupus control their flare-ups and live productive lives.

10 Foods To Avoid When You Have Acid Reflux

What Causes Acid Reflux?

Your stomach produces acid to help digest food. The food passes from your esophagus into your stomach, after which a flap (called the lower esophageal sphincter muscle) closes and separates the stomach from the esophagus. This flap is only meant to open while swallowing and belching.

However, there are multiple ways in which this flap opens when it is not meant to. Increased pressure in the stomach (intra-abdominal pressure) forces the esophageal flap to open and pushes stomach contents, including acid, into your esophagus. Foods that alter the functionality of the flap, either through relaxation or damage to cells, also lead to acid escaping from the stomach into the esophagus.  The stomach acid in your esophagus then causes the burning sensation that is one of the many symptoms of acid reflux.

Do remember that the right solution to acid reflux is to increase the quality of the stomach acid, so that you are able to digest all foods well. That often requires working with a holistic practitioner to identify which parts of the digestion are broken. Dietary supplements such as digestive enzymes and raft forming alginatesmay be used during the healing phase, to help you produce and tolerate good quality stomach acid better. In the meanwhile, avoiding these foods can help you avoid acid reflux attacks.

So, Avoid These Foods When You Have Acid Reflux

Grains

Foods To Avoid When You Have Acid Reflux - Wheat, Brown Rice & Rye

Whole grains tend to form a large part of our staple diet. However, most basic grains like wheat, wild and brown rice, rye and wholemeal bread/pasta are highly acidic foods. These can be consumed in moderation (after soaking and sprouting them correctly to eliminate the acidity inducing natural chemicals covering them). They can be replaced in meals by more alkaline options like quinoa, millet, buckwheat or oats.

Meat

Foods To Avoid When You Have Acid Reflux - Beef

Chicken, beef, fish and other meats tend to be some of the more prevalent acidic foods. Red meat is especially detrimental to acid reflux since it is also high in fat content. Good alternatives to meats include tofu, soy foods and sprouts. When you eat meat, stick to low fat meat, like turkey or lean chicken. Limit this to twice a week and chew your meat really well, as it is harder to digest. Freshwater fish also tend to be less acidic than ocean fish.

Alcohol

Foods To Avoid When You Have Acid Reflux - Alcohol

What’s your poison? Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your body, including the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. This allows more stomach acid to enter esophagus, thus increasing acid reflux. Moderating the volume and frequency of your alcohol consumption may prevent some of that acid from leaving your stomach.

Watch your mixers! Avoid mixing your drink with acidic juices (like orange juice) or sodas. Instead, opt for low-acid juices like watermelon or apricot.

High-Fat Foods And Dairy Products

Foods To Avoid When You Have Acid Reflux - Cheese & Butter

Several studies have found links between obesity and acid reflux. High-fatty foods, major contributors to obesity, are unsurprisingly among the primary antagonists of acid reflux symptoms. Fried, greasy and processed foods with saturated fats are obvious culprits. However, even otherwise healthy dairy products like butter and cheese also contain fats that exacerbate acid reflux.

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9 Easy Yoga Poses to Reverse Bad Posture

Roll out your yoga mat! These poses will help you strengthen the muscles that cause you to slouch, making good posture effortless.

Think about it: From the time we are in kindergarten to the time we get desk jobs, many of us are sitting for most of the day.

When this happens, it’s almost impossible to keep proper posture and avoid slouching. Over time, poor posture causes some muscles to become overly tight while opposing muscles become weak.

Muscles that become tight:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Hip flexors
  • Lower back
  • Calves
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Muscles of the front of the neck: sternocleidomastoid and scalene

Muscles that weaken:

  • Glutes
  • Abs
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rhomboids
  • Muscles in the back of the neck: trapezius

You can reverse the damaging effects of poor posture with these nine simple yoga poses. They work to release different muscle groups while simultaneously strengthening other muscles.

To do this stretching routine, you’ll need a yoga mat, a yoga strap (or towel), and two yoga blocks. You can do this sequence up to three times per week, allowing for at least one day of rest between each set.


Cobra | 5 breaths

Cobra.jpg

One of the most common signs of poor posture is rounded shoulders, stemming from a tight and shortened chest and a forward head. This pose brings the shoulders and the neck back into alignment while also strengthening the entire back.

  1. Lie face down on your mat with your toes untucked. Place your forehead on the mat and keep your neck long.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the mat next to your ribs.
  3. Press the tops of your feet into your mat. Inhale to lift your forehead, chest, palms and kneecaps off the mat.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 slow breaths, then release on an exhale.

Bound Locust Pose | 8 breaths

Bound-Locust-Pose.jpg

This pose draws the shoulders back into alignment and strengthens the entire back, the glutes, and the hamstrings.

  1. Start by lying on your belly with your forehead on your mat and your toes untucked.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your lower back and pull your legs together.
  3. Keep your neck long as you inhale to lift your chest, feet, and legs off of the ground.
  4. If you can, lift your hands up off your lower back. Hold for 8 breaths, then exhale to release slowly.

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Everything You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms can include an extremely elevated mood called mania. They can also include episodes of depression. Bipolar disorder is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression.

People with bipolar disorder may have trouble managing everyday life tasks at school or work, or maintaining relationships. There’s no cure, but there are many treatment options available that can help to manage the symptoms.

Bipolar disorder facts

Bipolar disorder isn’t a rare brain disorder. In fact, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults — or about 5 million people — have been diagnosed with it. The average age when people with bipolar disorder begin to show symptoms is 25 years old.

Depression caused by bipolar disorder lasts at least two weeks. A high (manic) episode can last for several days or weeks. Some people will experience episodes of mood swings several times a year, while others may experience them only rarely. 

Bipolar symptoms

There are three main symptoms that can occur with bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, and depression.

While experiencing mania, a person with bipolar disorder may feel an emotional high. They can feel excited, impulsive, euphoric, and full of energy. During manic episodes, they may also engage in behavior such as:

  • spending sprees
  • unprotected sex
  • drug use

Hypomania is generally associated with bipolar II disorder. It’s similar to mania, but it’s not as severe. Unlike mania, hypomania may not result in any trouble at work, school, or in social relationships. However, people with hypomania still notice changes in their mood.

During an episode of depression you may experience:

  • deep sadness
  • hopelessness
  • loss of energy
  • lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • periods of too little or too much sleep
  • suicidal thoughts

Although it’s not a rare condition, bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose because of its varied symptoms.

Bipolar symptoms in women

Men and women are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in equal numbers. However, the main symptoms of the disorder may be different between the two genders. In many cases, a woman with bipolar disorder may:

  • be diagnosed later in life, in her 20s or 30s
  • have milder episodes of mania
  • experience more depressive episodes than manic episodes
  • have four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year, which is called rapid cycling
  • experience other conditions at the same time, including thyroid disease, obesity, anxiety disorders, and migraines
  • have a higher lifetime risk of alcohol use disorder

Women with bipolar disorder may also relapse more often. This is believed to be caused by hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. If you’re a woman and think you may have bipolar disorder, it’s important for you to get the facts. 

Bipolar symptoms in men

Men and women both experience common symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, men may experience symptoms differently than women. Men with bipolar disorder may:

  • be diagnosed earlier in life
  • experience more severe episodes, especially manic episodes
  • have substance abuse issues
  • act out during manic episodes

Men with bipolar disorder are less likely than women to seek medical care on their own. They’re also more likely to die by suicide.

Types of bipolar disorder

There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is defined by the appearance of at least one manic episode. You may experience hypomanic or major depressive episodes before and after the manic episode. This type of bipolar disorder affects men and women equally.

Bipolar II

People with this type of bipolar disorder experience one major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks. They also have at least one hypomanic episode that lasts about four days. This type of bipolar disorder is thought to be more common in women.

Cyclothymia

People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania and depression. These symptoms are shorter and less severe than the mania and depression caused by bipolar I or bipolar II disorder. Most people with this condition only experience a month or two at a time where their moods are stable.

When discussing your diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell you what kind of bipolar disorder you have.

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Cannabis oil improves Crohn’s disease symptoms: study

According to a new study, cannabis oil can “significantly” improve Crohn’s disease symptoms.

“(S)tudies have shown that many people with Crohn’s disease use cannabis regularly to relieve their symptoms,” Dr. Timna Naftali, an Israeli gastroenterologist who also teaches at Tel Aviv University, said in a written statement. “It has always been thought that this improvement was related to a reduction in inflammation in the gut and the aim of this study was to investigate this.”

Crohn’s disease is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can cause severe belly pain and chronic diarrhea.

Dr. Naftali, whose study is being billed as the first of its kind, found that an eight-week treatment with cannabis oil containing a four to one CBD to THC ratio produced clinical remission in up to 65 per cent of individuals with Crohn’s disease. The randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 50 people with moderately severe forms of the disease. The group that received cannabis oil also reported significant improvements in their quality of life.

Interestingly, however, cannabis was found to have no effect on the gut inflammation that underscores the disease.

“We have previously demonstrated that cannabis can produce measurable improvements in Crohn’s disease symptoms but, to our surprise, we saw no statistically significant improvements in endoscopic scores or in the inflammatory markers we measured in the cannabis oil group compared with the placebo group,” Dr. Naftali explained. “We know that cannabinoids can have profound anti-inflammatory effects but this study indicates that the improvement in symptoms may not be related to these anti-inflammatory properties.”

Going forward, Dr. Naftali and her research team plan to further investigate cannabis’ potential anti-inflammatory properties to treat IBDs.

“There are very good grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal diseases,” Dr. Naftali said. “For now, however, we can only consider medicinal cannabis as an alternative or additional intervention that provides temporary symptom relief for some people with Crohn’s disease.”

6 Medication-Free Ways to Feel Better with Parkinson’s Disease

Medication aside, there are many ways people living with Parkinson’s disease can improve their health and well-being, preserve physical function, ease symptoms and enhance quality of life. Chief among these are getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated and getting an adequate amount of sleep.

But what about nontraditional therapy? Integrative therapies, such as yoga, massage, dietary supplements and various movement techniques, have prompted research over the years to determine if they have a role to play in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Although the jury is mostly still out on some of them, there is still quite a bit of promise to many nonmedical approaches to care.

Here are six integrative therapies to consider:

Open palm with nutritional supplements

Nutritional Supplements

You may have heard that the antioxidant coenzyme Q10, or Co-Q10, may improve Parkinson’s disease. However, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke halted a study in 2011 investigating the effectiveness of Co-Q10 when it became clear that the purported protective benefits didn’t differ from a placebo.

For this and other reasons, it’s wise to ask your doctor if you’re thinking of trying a supplement — and you should never stop taking your medication.

One supplement that may have benefits for people with Parkinson’s disease is calcium, largely because so many calcium-rich foods (such as dairy products) are also high in protein, which may interfere with the absorption of your medications. 

Three women enjoying Tai Chi class.

Tai Chi

This form of exercise promotes balance and coordination, so it stands to reason that it would be beneficial for patients with Parkinson’s disease. A 2012 study of three forms of exercise — resistance training, stretching and tai chi — found that tai chi offered measurable improvement in balance and stability in people who had moderate Parkinson’s disease. 

Senior adults practicing yoga.

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What is tinnitus? The symptoms, causes and treatment for ringing in the ear

The auditory condition is actually much more common than most would think.

In the movie “A Star Is Born,” actor Bradley Cooper plays a beloved musician named Jackson Maine. As a singer and songwriter, Maine lives and breathes by his music, but what fans can’t see is that he’s struggling.

Maine suffers from a serious case of tinnitus, an auditory condition often associated with hearing ringing or other noises such as buzzing or clicking. Seeing his character deal with the health issue shined a light on the little talked about condition.

 

Tinnitus is a sign that something is not quite right in your auditory system. Though it can be a very serious condition, don’t assume your turmoil will be as bad as Cooper’s character. The condition usually does not worsen and can be effectively managed if it does get worse, explained Dr. LaGuinn Sherlock, a research audiologist and board chair of the American Tinnitus Association. And more importantly, prevention and management can significantly help.

“The biggest fear people have when they get tinnitus is that it’s going to get worse and worse and worse. And that’s not the typical or the natural course of tinnitus,” Sherlock told TODAY.

“What’s more typical is that it’ll fade away over time.”

About 25 million Americans, or 10 percent of adults, have experienced tinnitus “lasting at least five minutes in the past year,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health. Some experts say that number is closer to 50 million.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

Tinnitus could be caused or associated with something as simple as an ear infection or earwax to things more serious such as benign growths in the middle ear or on the hearing nerve or some forms of chemotherapy.

But most commonly, the culprit is hearing loss. To prevent this, experts suggest wearing earplugs in loud places like or while attending concerts and avoiding consistent exposure to loud noise.

Dr. Troy Cascia, lead senior audiologist at University of California San Francisco Audiology Clinic, explained the science behind it.

“The auditory part of our brain, called the auditory cortex, is always expecting sound stimulation from our environment. Normally these neurons only fire when they are being stimulated by environmental sounds, but when there is hearing loss, those neurons experience auditory deprivation,” Cascia said.

That auditory deprivation caused by hearing loss can result in tinnitus.

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9 foods that could be making your acid reflux worse

It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat it

Do you often get a burning sensation in your throat or stomach after you eat? Well, it’s called acid reflux – a condition you could be making worse without even knowing it.

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid leaks up, the wrong direction, from the stomach into the oesophagus. Symptoms of acid reflux range from heartburn to difficulty swallowing – or there can be no symptoms at all. It can be painful, uncomfortable and inconvenient to the sufferer.

What are the causes?

When you swallow food, it travels down the oesophagus, and passes through a ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), into the stomach. The job of the LOS is to control what gets in to the stomach, and to prevent the stomach contents from getting back out again. However, the LOS is a muscle, and like other muscles, its tone can vary. Acid reflux occurs when the LOS becomes abnormally relaxed, and allows the backward flow of the stomach contents back into the oesophagus.

A number of factors can affect the tone and functioning of the LOS – from being overweight to smoking or taking medication. Certain foods and drinks can also exacerbate aid reflux, although there is still a fair bit of controversy in the medical community over which foods can cause or worsen reflux symptoms – largely because this seems to vary significantly between individuals.

Woman with hands on throat

The following foods have all been linked with acid reflux, but further research is needed. However, that’s not to say sufferers won’t find benefits from reducing or avoiding some, or all, of these foods.

1. High fat foods

Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach, so there is more opportunity for a full, distended stomach, which increases pressure on the LOS. This may boost your risk of reflux symptoms. Common high fat offenders include deep fried foods like fish and chips, as well as fatty cuts of meat, in particular pork and lamb.

2. Spicy foods

Whilst some individuals find that spice aggravates their symptoms, the evidence for this is mixed. Individuals should be mindful of their own spice tolerance.

3. Citrus

Such as a glass of orange juice, or lots of lemon juice squeezed over food. While citrus juice probably doesn’t cause acid reflux, some individuals find that it can make their heartburn and other symptoms temporarily worse.

4. Garlic and onions

Onions can be one of the worst offenders for individuals suffering from severe reflux. Garlic can too, but not as commonly. However, the combination of onion and garlic together can often be problematic.

5. Peppermint

Whilst an after-dinner mint tea is often recommended as a digestive remedy, for those suffering from acid reflux, this could actually worsen symptoms. Why? Because peppermint relaxes the LOS, and allows stomach acid to flow back up into the oesophagus.

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